Cuban dancer puts his own spin on pitch to Chapman

Cervilio Amador turned his back to home plate, just like Johnny

Cueto. Then he did two spins in the air before landing gracefully

and throwing a ceremonial pitch to Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis

Chapman.

Ballet and baseball, a double tour.

The Cuban dancer and the Cuban pitcher teamed up for a special

moment before Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. They

left Cuba several years apart and have furthered their high-profile

careers in Cincinnati, where they became friends.

Amador always wanted to throw a pitch at a Reds game – he’s a

big baseball fan – and Chapman helped him do it.

The move was all his own.

”I did a Cueto windup and then it was OK, a double tour,”

Amador said, referring to his gravity-defying double spin from the

front of the mound.

The throw? Right there. The nerves? There, too.

”You know what? I did get nervous when I started walking to the

mound,” said Amador, who has performed in front of thousands as a

Cincinnati Ballet principal dancer for the last eight years. ”It

reminded me of what I feel right before I go on stage and start

performing. Your heart just pumps.

”I was like, `Just breathe, you can do this.’ So much

fun!”

The island’s two famous performers enjoyed the chance to share

such a moment. Amador left Cuba in 2003 and joined the Cincinnati

Ballet. Chapman defected in 2009 and signed with the Reds. They met

at a mutual friend’s birthday party and became friends, active in a

close-knit Cuban community in Cincinnati.

”Since I met him, we’ve had a good relationship,” Chapman

said, with assistant trainer Tomas Vera translating. ”He’s a great

person.”

Amador played baseball in the streets of Cuba as a boy, but was

never on a team – dance was his thing. Chapman helped him realize

one of his dreams by assisting with the ceremonial pitch. He gave

him some tips on throwing before Friday’s game to prepare him.

After his spin and fling, Amador got the ball from Chapman as a

keepsake and walked over to the railing of the Reds dugout for a

long, animated chat with manager Dusty Baker, who visited Cuba a

few years ago as part of a diplomatic trip for the arts.

While in Cuba, Baker visited the national ballet school where

Amador studied.

”He was telling me his experience when he went to Cuba,”

Amador said. ”He went to the school that I went to, and they

performed for him. That’s pretty cool.”

Amador, wearing a Reds jersey with No. 50, waved to the cheering

fans as he left the field and headed for a tunnel at the end of the

Brewers’ dugout. Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura called to him in

Spanish, giving him grief about his delivery. Amador joked

back.

”Those guys were giving me a hard time,” Amador said.

Didn’t bother him.

”They’re on the opposite team,” he said.

There’s only one bit of unfinished business for the dancer and

the closer. Chapman has never seen Amador on stage.

”I haven’t seen him dance, but I want to go,” Chapman said.

”He told me he has a new show in September, so I want to see

it.”

Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay